Beth Cook, chemistry teacher at Salem High School, has been named a finalist for the McGlothlin Award at the high school level.
Cook says she applied for the award because she was excited by the opportunity for international travel, a requirement for McGlothlin Award winners.
As part of the consideration process for the McGlothlin Award, Cook had to film herself teaching a lesson, which was entitled “Should We Continue To Use Nuclear Power?”
She broke her students into groups and let them determine which sides or aspects of the argument they’d like to research. She recorded the culminating discussion. Cook says she wanted to teach her students that it’s alright to change their opinion on an issue in light of new information. The topic poses questions about the environment and the economy.
Should Cook win, she and her husband will use some of the money to continue renovations on her house. They also plan to travel to Tanzania, where they’ll “attempt to summit Kilimanjaro,” she said.
Tanzania offers even more to Cook from a science-related standpoint. She says she’s interested in seeing “how the geography [of Kilimanjaro] has changed due to climate change. It used to be snowcapped more than it is now,” she said.
She’s also interested in the water quality issues in Tanzania, and what it’s like for the people who live there, as well as the impact of altitude (Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 feet tall). Cook says she and her students talk about gas behavior often in chemistry.
When Cook heard she’d been named a finalist, she says she cried. “My husband had to restore me to consciousness,” she said.
It’s a “big honor” to be named a finalist, Cook says, and that, like other teachers, she tries every day to teach her students and to make a difference in their lives.
“You’re in it for helping those kids because you enjoy it [your subject] and you enjoy working with the kids,” Cook said. She has taught chemistry at Salem High School for 6 years.
The next step for Cook is a lesson observation by a panel of judges. The winners of the McGlothlin Award will be announced on April 18, 2013, during a ceremony at Radford University.
“It’s been a win-win situation,” she says of being named a finalist, whether she wins or not. “I’m not nervous, it’s just such an honor to get this far. I’m encouraged in my teaching to try innovative things and to try to improve on what I do.”